In the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, a young Canadian by the name of Joe Thornton was selected first overall by the Boston Bruins. Many years later he would become a highly skilled playmaker and one of the top-50 points getters in NHL history. But, he didn’t reach this success without a change of scenery along the way.
After being the team captain for the Bruins for a several years, Thornton was heavily criticized by the Boston fan base after an early and disappointing playoff exit in 2004. They said that he was unable to escalate his play in the postseason and was a big reason to why the Bruins had limited success in seven-game series’. At this same time, Thornton claimed that he was not happy with the state of the team but still signed a three-year, $20 million deal during the lockout despite being a restricted free agent.
In the West, the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a hole early in the 2005-2006 campaign. Even though they were coming off their best season to date– a season that brought them all the way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals– the Sharks were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and were poised to fall far behind in the playoff race. In a desperate attempt to save the season, San Jose made a blockbuster deal. On November 30, 2005, the Sharks dealt Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart to Boston in exchange for Thornton.
The Bruins obtained a number of players for their roster in the past decade because of this trade. First, the New England club gained the three former Sharks that were part of the original deal. Sturm recorded a respectable 193 points in 302 games but suffered a number of injuries while with the team. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations after he tore both his ACL and MCL in 2010. Meanwhile, Primeau and Stuart failed to make any significant impact for the squad and were traded to the Calgary Flames in 2007 for Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference.
These two new additions played a much more important role for the Bruins. Kobasew acheived 84 points in 158 games and Ference was a vital part of Boston’s blue line during their 2011 Stanley Cup run. The defenseman then became part of the leadership group, playing the part of a shared alternate captaincy the following season.
Unfortunately for the team, both of these skaters left the club with the Bruins getting almost nothing in return so far. Kobasew was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Craig Weller, a 2011 second rounder (which became Alexander Khokhlachev), and the rights to prospect Alexander Fallstromon in 2009. These three skaters have totaled four games played with the franchise, all of them being by Khokhlachev. On the other hand though, Ference signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013, meaning Boston let him go for nothing.
Outcome: San Jose
Unlike Boston’s side of the story, San Jose’s results are much more straightforward; the Sharks got Joe Thornton in 2005 and still have him today. Since he joined Team Teal, Thornton has become on of the top players to play in the bay. He was team captain for three years, won two olympic gold medals with Team Canada, and has become of the greatest point-getters in league history. Jumbo is currently ranked 36th all time in scoring in the NHL and possesses the second most points by any Shark since the teams’ inception in 1991, behind only Patrick Marleau.
Not only is Thornton good himself, but he makes his linemates better as well. With his exceptional passing skill, the former captain is largely responsible for Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56-goal season and Joe Pavelski’s 41-goal year. This man is a possession beast and makes spectacular plays in the offensive zone. He may very well be the greatest hockey player in San Jose history.
San Jose wins this trade fairly easily, but it’s not as lopsided as many perceive it to be. Boston got killed in the original trade as Sturm was the only player to have moderate success with the team. However, by obtaining both Kobasew and Ference as an indirect result of this deal, the Bruins’ return looks a little more respectable. But it ultimately doesn’t compare with Thornton’s success. The five skaters who have played for the B’s due to the trade have recorded a total of 448 points in 1037 games played (0.43 points per game) while earning a combined plus/minus of minus-8. Thornton has 791 points in 732 games as a Shark (1.08 points per game) and has a plus-151 rating. Sturm, Kobasew, and Ference were good in Boston, but they weren’t Joe-Thornton-in-San-Jose good. And even though Ference may have won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins, his impact does not compare with the skill of Thornton. The Sharks emerged victorious in this trade.
Drew Weber is a columnist for the San Jose Sharks at The Hockey Writers. He previously wrote articles and appeared on podcasts for Teal Town USA (formerly Pucknology) and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.